Marx's Critique of Hegel


Schelling and Prussian Government

Positivism: In a sense, positivism can be seen as the opposite current to Hegelianism, the essence of what Hegel was trying to overcome, the method which bases itself on fragmentation as opposed to totalisation, and it continued on its way as if Hegel had never existed. Positivism, including its ethical component Utilitarianism, (John Stuart Mill) the translation of market relations directly into the language of ethics, remains to be superseded. (5 Min)


Kierkegaard: there is no such thing as a thought which is not psychological, i.e. the thought of a human being, and, thought which is lacking in passion, and which does not set itself against Sin is an accommodation to Sin.

Schopenhauer: knowledge is inseparable from and arising only from the human will, but the whole point is to overcome and transcend the Will and consequently knowledge in the sense that it is given to the senses as a result of Will.

Irrationalism: (Nietzsche) The essence of bourgeois philosophy is epistemology. For example, ethics is reduced to Utilitarianism and thereby to a branch of science: political economy ultimately = decision-theory, economic rationalism.

(Skipping Bakunin) (10 Min)

Feuerbach: ("The true conqueror of the old Philosophy")

"The secret of the Hegelian dialectic lies, in the last analysis, only in the fact that it negates theology by philosophy and then, in turn, negates philosophy by theology."
"The new philosophy makes man - with the inclusion of nature as the foundation of man - the unique, universal and highest object of philosophy. It thus makes anthropology, with the inclusion of physiology, the universal science."

(15 Min)

Marx: 1930 1844 Manuscripts deciphered, 1959 in English, 1973 Grundrisse in English

Debt to Feuerbach: materialism, humanism, inversion of subject and predicate. (20 Min)

Totalisation: society of mutual reconciliation; determinations of a single essence; humanism (25 Min)

Hegel supersedes abstraction within abstraction (30 Min)

Hegel had superseded alienation by comprehending it in thought, but what was required was to supersede this alienated comprehension by achieving it in practice.

Marx links this critique with parallel comments on atheism and communism:

"In the same way atheism being the supersession of God, is the advent of theoretical humanism, and communism, as the supersession of private property, is the vindication of real human life as man's possession and thus the advent of practical humanism, or atheism is humanism mediated with itself through the supersession of religion, whilst communism is humanism mediated with itself through the supersession of private property. Only through the supersession of this mediation - which is itself, however, a necessary premise - does positively self-deriving humanism, positive humanism, come into being. ..." [Critique of Hegel's Philosophy, 1844] (35 Min)

Consequently, Marx had to disclose the real human content of Hegel's philosophy and how to effect the real supersession of this alienation rather than its confirmation.

"Because this so-called negativity is nothing but the abstract, empty form of that real living act, its content can in consequence be merely a formal content produced by abstraction from all content. As a result therefore one gets general, abstract forms of abstraction pertaining to every content and on that account indifferent to, and, consequently, valid for, all content the thought-forms or logical categories torn from real mind and from real nature."

Alienation: Comment on James Mill: this must be followed in contrast to the Hegelian conception of objectification.

(40 Min)

"When I work with Nature I find myself as a natural being, I recognise my own essence in Nature because I find my needs satisfied in Nature through my own labour, and I see my own essential powers as natural forces. The abstract enmity between sense and spirit is necessary so long as the human feeling for nature, the human sense of nature, and therefore also the natural sense of man, are not yet produced by man's own labour."
"The savage in his cave ... feels as much at home as a fish in water. But the cellar dwelling of the poor man is a hostile element, ... where he finds himself in someone else's house, in the house of a stranger who always watches him and throws him out if he does not pay his rent." [1844 Human Needs]
"If the product of labour does not belong to the worker, and if it confronts him as an alien power, this is only possible because it belongs to a man other than the worker. If his activity is a torment for him, it must provide pleasure and enjoyment for someone else. Not the gods, not nature, but only man himself can be this alien power over men. ... [1844, Estranged Labour]

Comments on James Mill from the end: (45 Min)

"Let us suppose that we had carried out production as human beings. Each of us would have in two ways affirmed himself and the other person. 1) In my production I would have objectified my individuality, its specific character, and therefore enjoyed not only an individual manifestation of my life during the activity, but also when looking at the object I would have the individual pleasure of knowing my personality to be objective, visible to the senses and hence a power beyond all doubt. 2) In your enjoyment or use of my product I would have the direct enjoyment both of being conscious of having satisfied a human need by my work, that is, of having objectified man's essential nature, and of having thus created an object corresponding to the need of another man's essential nature. 3) I would have been for you the mediator between you and the species, and therefore would become recognised and felt by you yourself as a completion of your own essential nature and as a necessary part of yourself, and consequently would know myself to be confirmed both in your thought and your love. 4) In the individual expression of my life I would have directly created your expression of your life, and therefore in my individual activity I would have directly confirmed and realised my true nature, my human nature, my communal nature.

" My work would be a free manifestation of life, hence an enjoyment of life. Presupposing private property, my work is an alienation of life, for I work in order to live, in order to obtain for myself the means of life. My work is not my life. ". [Comments on James Mill, Marx 1844] (the division between work and life is itself a horrible product of the separation of human beings from their own essential nature)

(50 Min)

Private (not necessarily wage-) Labour: At a certain stage in development of humanity, we need to give freedom for people to exercise their abilities freely, without direction by another human being. But how was the allocation of the general social to be achieved? This had formerly been achieved by traditionally developed means of social cooperation which were in general conceived as ordained by the station in life assigned to the various members of society according to their birth and the system of social relationships so determined. What kind of reasoning process could organise the general allocation of social labour if everyone worked according to their own caprice? The answer we know by the name of capital, or money, or the market.

When the social relation is replaced by the market (NB: No wage labour here):

"The essence of money is not, in the first place, that property is alienated in it, but that the mediating activity or movement, the human, social act by which man's products mutually complement one another, is estranged from man and becomes the attribute of money, a material thing outside man. Since man alienates this mediating activity itself, he is active here only as a man who has lost himself and is dehumanised; the relation itself between things, man's operation with them, becomes the operation of an entity outside man and above man. Owing to this alien mediator - instead of man himself being the mediator for man - man regards his will, his activity and his relation to other men as a power independent of him and them. His slavery, therefore, reaches its peak. It is clear that this mediator now becomes a real God, for the mediator is the real power over what it mediates to me. Its cult becomes an end in itself. ... All the qualities which arise in the course of this activity are, therefore, transferred to this mediator. Hence man becomes the poorer as man, i.e., separated from this mediator, the richer this mediator becomes. ...

"The mediating process between men engaged in exchange is not a social or human process, not human relationship; it is the abstract relationship of private property to private property, and the expression of this abstract relationship is value, whose actual existence as value constitutes money. Since men engaged in exchange do not relate to each other as men, things lose the significance of human, personal property. ...

"Since human nature is the true community of men, by manifesting their nature men create, produce, the human community, the social entity, which is no abstract universal power opposed to the single individual, but is the essential nature of each individual, his own activity, his own life, his own spirit, his own wealth. Hence this true community does not come into being through reflection, it appears owing to the need and egoism of individuals, i.e., it is produced directly by their life activity itself. It does not depend on man whether this community exists or not; but as long as man does not recognise himself as man, and therefore has not organised the world in a human way, this community appears in the form of estrangement, because its subject, man, is a being estranged from himself. Men, not as an abstraction, but as real, living, particular individuals, are this entity. Hence, as they are, so is this entity itself. To say that man is estranged from himself, therefore, is the same thing as saying that the society of this estranged man is a caricature of his real community, of his true species-life, that his activity therefore appears to him as a torment, his own creation as an alien power, his wealth as poverty, the essential bond linking him with other men as an unessential bond, and separation from his fellow men, on the other hand, as his true mode of existence, his life as a sacrifice of his life, the realisation of his nature as making his life unreal, his production as the production of his nullity, his power over an object as the power of the object over him, and he himself, the lord of his creation, as the servant of this creation. ...

(55 Min)

"If I give up my private property to someone else, it ceases to be mine; it becomes something independent of me, lying outside my sphere, a thing external to me. Hence I alienate my private property. With regard to me, therefore, I turn it into alienated private property. But I only turn it into an alienated thing in general, I abolish only my personal relation to it, I give it back to the elementary powers of nature if I alienate it only with regard to myself. It becomes alienated private property only if, while ceasing to be my private property, it on that account does not cease to be private property as such, that is to say, if it enters into the same relation to another man, apart from me, as that which it had to myself; in short, if it becomes the private property of another man. ... what causes me to alienate my private property to another man? ... necessity, need. The other man is also a property owner, but he is the owner of another thing, which I lack and cannot and will not do without, which seems to me a necessity for the completion of my existence and the realisation of my nature.

"The bond which connects the two property owners with each other is the specific kind of object that constitutes the substance of their private property. ... both property owners are impelled to give up their private property, but to do so in such a way that at the same time they confirm private ownership, or to give up the private property within the relationship of private ownership. Each therefore alienates a part of his private property to the other.

"The social connection or social relationship between the two property owners is therefore that of reciprocity in alienation, positing the relationship of alienation on both sides, or alienation as the relationship of both property owners, whereas in simple private property, alienation occurs only in relation to oneself, one-sidedly.

"Exchange or barter is therefore the social act, the species-act, the community, the social intercourse and integration of men within private ownership, and therefore the external, alienated species-act. ...

"Through the reciprocal alienation or estrangement of private property, private property itself falls into the category of alienated private property. For, in the first place, it has ceased to be the product of the labour of its owner, his exclusive, distinctive personality. For he has alienated it, it has moved away from the owner whose product it was and has acquired a personal significance for someone whose product it is not. It has lost its personal significance for the owner. Secondly, it has been brought into relation with another private property, and placed on a par with the latter. Its place has been taken by a private property of a different kind, just as it itself takes the place of a private property of a different kind. On both sides, therefore, private property appears as the representative of a different kind of private property, as the equivalent of a different natural product, and both sides are related to each other in such a way that each represents the mode of existence of the other, and both relate to each other as substitutes for themselves and the other. Hence the mode of existence of private property as such has become that of a substitute, of an equivalent. ...

"The relationship of exchange being presupposed, labour becomes directly labour to earn a living. This relationship of alienated labour reaches its highest point only when 1) on one side labour to earn a living and the product of the worker have no direct relation to his need or his function as worker, but both aspects are determined by social combinations alien to the worker; 2) he who buys the product is not himself a producer, but gives in exchange what someone else has produced. ... The product is produced as value, as exchange-value, as an equivalent, and no longer because of its direct, personal relation to the producer. The more diverse production becomes, and therefore the more diverse the needs become, on the one hand, and the more one-sided the activities of the producer become, on the other hand, the more does his labour fall into the category of labour to earn a living, ...

(60 Min)

"Labour to earn a living involves: 1) estrangement and fortuitous connection between labour and the subject who labours; 2) estrangement and fortuitous connection between labour and the object of labour; 3) that the worker's role is determined by social needs which, however, are alien to him and a compulsion to which he submits out of egoistic need and necessity, and which have for him only the significance of a means of satisfying his dire need, just as for them he exists only as a slave of their needs; 4) that to the worker the maintenance of his individual existence appears to be the purpose of his activity and what he actually does is regarded by him only as a means; that he carries on his life's activity in order to earn means of subsistence. Hence the greater and the more developed the social power appears to be within the private property relationship, the more egoistic, asocial and estranged from his own nature does man become.

"Just as the mutual exchange of the products of human activity appears as barter, as trade, so the mutual completion and exchange of the activity itself appears as division of labour, which turns man as far as possible into an abstract being, a machine tool, etc., and transforms him into a spiritual and physical monster.

"It is precisely the unity of human labour that is regarded merely as division of labour, because social nature only comes into existence as its opposite, in the form of estrangement. Division of labour increases with civilisation.

"Within the presupposition of division of labour, the product, the material of private property, acquires for the individual more and more the significance of an equivalent, and as he no longer exchanges only his surplus, and the object of his production can be simply a matter of indifference to him, so too he no longer exchanges his product for something directly needed by him. The equivalent comes into existence as an equivalent in money, which is now the immediate result of labour to gain a living and the medium of exchange.

"The complete domination of the estranged thing over man has become evident in money, which is completely indifferent both to the nature of the material, i.e., to the specific nature of the private property, and to the personality of the property owner. What was the domination of person over person is now the general domination of the thing over the person, of the product over the producer. just as the concept of the equivalent, the value, already implied the alienation of private property, so money is the sensuous, even objective existence of this alienation. ...

(65 Min)

"I have produced for myself and not for you, just as you have produced for yourself and not for me. In itself, the result of my production has as little connection with you as the result of your production has directly with me. That is to say, our production is not man's production for man as a man, i.e., it is not social production. Neither of us, therefore, as a man stands in a relation of enjoyment to the other's product. As men, we do not exist as far as our respective products are concerned. Hence our exchange, too, cannot be the mediating process by which it is confirmed that my product is [for] you, because it is an objectification of your own nature, your need. For it is not man's nature that forms the link between the products we make for one another. Exchange can only set in motion, only confirm, the character of the relation which each of us has in regard to his own product, and therefore to the product of the other. Each of us sees in his product only the objectification of his own selfish need, and therefore in the product of the other the objectification of a different selfish need, independent of him and alien to him.

"As a man you have, of course, a human relation to my product: you have need of my product. Hence it exists for you as an object of your desire and your will. But your need, your desire, your will, are powerless as regards my product. That means, therefore, that your human nature, which accordingly is bound to stand in intimate relation to my human production, is not your power over this production, your possession of it, for it is not the specific character, not the power, of man's nature that is recognised in my production. They [your need, your desire, etc.] constitute rather the tie which makes you dependent on me, because they put you in a position of dependence on my product. Far from being the means which would give you power over my production, they are instead the means for giving me power over you. ...

"On both sides, therefore, exchange is necessarily mediated by the object which each side produces and possesses. The ideal relationship to the respective objects of our production is, of course, our mutual need. But the real, true relationship, which actually occurs and takes effect, is only the mutually exclusive possession of our respective products. What gives your need of my article its value, worth and effect for me is solely your object, the equivalent of my object. Our respective products, therefore, are the means, the mediator, the instrument, the acknowledged power of our mutual needs. Your demand and the equivalent of your possession, therefore, are for me terms that are equal in significance and validity, and your demand only acquires a meaning, owing to having an effect, when it has meaning and effect in relation to me. As a mere human being without this instrument your demand is an unsatisfied aspiration on your part and an idea that does not exist for me. As a human being, therefore, you stand in no relationship to my object, because I myself have no human relationship to it. But the means is the true power over an object and therefore we mutually regard our products as the power of each of us over the other and over himself. That is to say, our own product has risen up against us; it seemed to be our property, but in fact we are its property. ... (70 Min)

"Although in your eyes your product is an instrument, a means, for taking possession of my product and thus for satisfying your need; yet in my eyes it is the purpose of our exchange. For me, you are rather the means and instrument for producing this object that is my aim, just as conversely you stand in the same relationship to my object. But 1) each of us actually behaves in the way he is regarded by the other. You have actually made yourself the means, the instrument, the producer of your own object in order to gain possession of mine; 2) your own object is for you only the sensuously perceptible covering, the hidden shape, of my object; for its production signifies and seeks to express the acquisition of my object. In fact, therefore, you have become for yourself a means, an instrument of your object, of which your desire is the servant, and you have performed menial services in order that the object shall never again do a favour to your desire. If then our mutual thraldom to the object at the beginning of the process is now seen to be in reality the relationship between master and slave, that is merely the crude and frank expression of our essential relationship.

"Our mutual value is for us the value of our mutual objects. Hence for us man himself is mutually of no value."

We have seen how and why money takes on human attributes, and is it any wonder that Hegel is uniquely able to tell us about the human attributes of universals which have been create by human activity? (75 Min)

Why Marx focussed on critique of Political Economy after 1844

Let's first get rid of the idea that:

  1. "political economy" is some separate branch of science. Formerly it was called "moral philosophy",
  2. that money or capital is other than an objectified human abstraction;
  3. that Life is something distinct from work or vice versa;
  4. that human beings are composed of various abstract attributes that define them according to their otherness, be that social class, gender, race or whatever;
  5. that Marx was a political economist who wanted to improve on political economy. (80 Min)

Being a communist Marx was interested in how people could lead a genuinely human life, and for that reason he was concerned with the real relations created by people in their lives, that is to say the relation of person to person, not that of being an appendage or an attribute of a thing.

Instead of doing like the philosopher Hegel, and overcoming abstraction, alienation, within alienation, within abstraction, he was concerned with real human relations;

But in bourgeois society, these relations are presented as if they were external things, and in the so-called science of political economy, we see in clear, universal form these real relations, much more clearly than if we were to approach them as an positivist social scientist who takes opinion polls, counts people into income groups, statistics, mathematical models and so on, and generally takes a different theoretically barren set of abstractions and deals with them as if they were material, natural given things.

(85 Min)